Reporting from Las Vegas
On a recent Saturday night, Mike Snedegar, 31, rushed over to Lavo, a trendy restaurant and nightclub at Palazzo. He was coming from sister club Tao at Venetian. At Tao he played celebrity reporter doing the house interviews with a gathering of young actresses, models and-or singers, including Joy Bryant, Jessica Lowndes, Rachel Bilson and Malin Akerman on the red carpet.
At Lavo, Snedegar organized a birthday party for reality star Stephanie Pratt. "I've done 50 to 60 celebrity birthday parties," Snedegar says. But don't expect dirt. "Yes, interesting things have happened at some of the parties, but I won't talk about it here. Discretion is part of my job."
After checking on Pratt's party as guests were eating, he headed to a nearby booth, where he was warmly greeted by Paris and Nicky Hilton. He has known the Hilton sisters for a few years.
If pushed, Snedegar calls his job "entertainment marketing." Working for Tao and Lavo, Snedegar is one of a tiny group of professionals that has emerged in Vegas nightclub culture in the past two years whose job amounts to wrangling celebrities. Instead of handling high rollers or selling bottle service tables to conventioneers, Snedegar handles celebrities, both those compensated to work as hosts (showing up and hanging out with friends in the VIP section and saying hi to the crowd) and those who drop by Lavo or Tao.
"I bring celebrities into the club. I do events with celebrities and create new relationships with celebrities who I don't know yet. I go as far as to see who has three movies coming out next year and I want to create a relationship with that person."
In the age of social media, Snedegar has earned a degree of fame from his work. He has thousands of followers on Twitter. Pop culture blogger Perez Hilton with only a bit of irony calls Snedegar his favorite celebrity in Vegas. Cast member of Planet Hollywood's burlesque "Peepshow" and red carpet regular Holly Madison put it this way: "Mike is an awesome guy. He's not a pushy like a lot of club people. He's just a fun dude you want to work with."
Snedegar is living the Las Vegas success story that for decades before the recession brought people here. He dropped out of college when his family could no longer afford tuition. He found himself stuck at home in Kentucky working a job that he says was going nowhere. He arrived in Vegas almost by chance in 2001. "I met a boy, fell in love, and we wanted to get out of Kentucky. We came to Vegas to visit, and we loved it." He moved to Vegas without a job, a professional network or friends.
"I had six jobs my first year. I was a waiter at one restaurant for three months where I hated it so much I would cry every day."
Snedegar's luck changed in a Vegas moment in 2002 when he answered an advertisement in the daily newspaper and scored a job at the House of Blues' exclusive Foundation Room atop Mandalay Bay. "Night life is something I fell into. I loved the excitement. I was entranced by this cool atmosphere." Snedegar's view of Vegas was glamorous at Foundation Room but not his job. He was a bus person. "I would pick up glasses, sweep the floor and clean up cigarette butts. I loved every minute." This was the beginning of a remarkable ascent in the competitive world of Vegas nightclubs.
Soon Snedegar was elevated to promoter. "My job was to build a database of people to bring girls into the nightclub. You always want a club full of hot girls. Guys will always want to go to a club. For hot girls you have to work harder."
By 2003 he was promoted to VIP host, bringing in the paying elite. "You are meeting the people who are in charge if casinos or strip clubs and telling them you are going to take care of their clients at your club."
In 2005 Snedegar came to work as the assistant to Jason Strauss, a managing partner of the then recently opened Tao. Strauss says: "Mike was very plugged into Vegas and popular culture. His heart and his integrity and the kind of person Mike is shines through right away." Frequently smiling, Snedegar brims with endearing enthusiasm. He looks like the person you want to be standing next to at a nightclub.
Snedegar's ability to accurately gauge fame combined with the gift he has for handling celebrities impressed his bosses. Slowly he went from an assistant to his current role as celebrity wrangler. Command PR's Jonathan Cheban, who is part of Pratt's party at Lavo, says of Snedegar: "Mike really knows how to make celebrities feel comfortable and trust him. That is key to why they pick Lavo or Tao."
Snedegar respects being famous for being famous. "The amount of work involved, from makeup artists to photo shoots; the one thing I learned about celebrities is that their time really is money."
After getting Pratt's entire party settled in the VIP section of Lavo's nightclub, Snedegar introduces her to the screaming clubgoers. He then joins her group to party into the night.
"I am this guy who got lucky. I pinch myself when I know which celebrity is coming and who I get to meet. I only always act professional. But I am as excited as anyone."